QUESTION: You wouldn't believe the pain I have in my right thumb - my bowling thumb, that is. I bowled for years with no problem, then all of a sudden I find I can't even lift the ball. I know if anyone ever heard of bowler's thumb, you had. So what is my answer? I won't quit bowling, no matter what you say. - V.J.K.

ANSWER: Well, you don't have to continue to suffer from this. Yes, I have heard of bowler's thumb, and so have the professionals on the tour.Your description fits the picture. It comes from compression of a nerve where you insert the digit into the hole in the ball. This constant pressure eventually leads to formation of scar tissue, and that tissue wraps itself around the nerve to cause the ultimate in bowler's thumb.

Perhaps you can sit still for just a slight rest from bowling. I am talking in terms of a few weeks to a month. If that doesn't get rid of it, you can resort to padding or a special thumb guard.

You can get tips from the pros. If you watch a professional match, you will notice the various protective gadgets these competitors use to avoid the thumb problem. Check with the pro where you do your bowling. Sometimes, an adjustment of the ball hole will go a long way toward relieving the pressure. Or he may detect an improper delivery motion that is aggravating the thumb.

QUESTION: I'd like to start a weightlifting program, but I have heard about getting muscle-bound from that, and I don't want to run that risk. What is the deal on muscle-boundness? - B.R.

ANSWER: There is no such thing as muscle-boundness from weight training. All such training only serves to enhance muscle strength. What some refer to as muscle-boundness really is muscle imbalance, and that arises from improper training.

What I mean is concentrating on one muscle while neglecting its counterpart. For example, many youngsters gravitate toward increasing the size of their biceps, the front upper arm muscles. If you do that while neglecting the triceps muscles, the ones at the back of the upper arms, you encourage an overall imbalance in the arm musculature. That might cause loss of agility; call it muscle-boundness if you will.

Every muscle group has an opposing group, and both, whether in the arm, leg or elsewhere, must be exercised in tandem and at the same degree of intensity.

QUESTION: I was glad to see you put down tobacco chewing by these young athletes. Now, how about having a go at snuff, which my 18-year-old baseball player started using last summer? Was I glad to see the summer end! - Mrs. G.G.

ANSWER: Snuff doesn't get off the hook. Snuff is finely ground tobacco placed in the mouth between the lip and gum and left there. Tobacco chaws are simply more coarsely ground leaves more suitable for chewing.

I discussed this a while back, but apparently failed to mention the cancer potential of such products. A large number of baseball players using snuff were examined recently for certain changes in mouth tissue. Many of them had changes typical of the kind that can sometimes lead to cancer. It's called leukoplakia.

It would be tragic were your son to become hooked on this dangerous irritant. Ironically, while tobacco smoking hazard publicity has apparently sunk in, many young athletes are succumbing to the lures of the other variety. It is a futile tradeoff.

QUESTION: What about alfalfa for rheumatoid arthritis? - Mrs. H.H.

ANSWER: Alfalfa doesn't appear to have any special value in arthritis, rheumatoid or any other kind.

FOR MRS. T.L. - Yes, a previous experience with blood vessel clotting often rules out use of estrogen for treatment of osteoporosis or another ailment. You are fairly young and should be able to help yourself with a physical exercise program and calcium supplementation. Exercise does, as your doctor states, help increase your bone density. I am sending on the osteoporosis report. Others may order by writing Dr. Donohue/No.23, Box 830, Gibbstown, NJ 08027-9909, enclosing a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope and $2.

1990 North America Syndicate Inc.